Hope Emerson

Active - 1948 - 1958  |   Born - Oct 27, 1897   |   Died - Apr 25, 1960   |   Genres - Comedy, Western, Drama, Adventure

Share on

Biography by Hal Erickson

When the call went out for an actress to play a circus strongwoman capable of lifting both a chair and Spencer Tracy in 1949's Adam's Rib, there was but one performer who could logically fit the bill: character actress Hope Emerson, who scraped the ceiling at 6' 2" and weighed in at 230 pounds. Emerson made her Broadway debut as the leader of the Amazons in Lysistrata. Her performance in the Fred Stone musical Smiling Faces led to her screen bow in the 1932 filmization of that property. During the 1940s, Emerson gained fame as the radio voice of Borden's Elsie the Cow. After years in vaudeville and the legitimate stage, Emerson returned to films as a homicidal masseuse in the New York-filmed Cry of the City (1948). She went on to play the feuding Mrs. Hatfield in Goldwyn's Roseanna McCoy (1948), and the implicitly lesbian prison matron in Caged (1950), an assignment which earned her an Oscar nomination. In 1958, Emerson was cast as Mother, owner of the nightclub where the beauteous Lola Albright was featured songstress, on the popular TV private eye series Peter Gunn. She left this series in 1959 to take a larger role as a housekeeper named "Sarge" on the weekly sitcom The Dennis O'Keefe Show. Shortly after filming the last O'Keefe episode, Hope Emerson died of a liver ailment at the reported age of 51.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography